Rethinking Europe, Global Pairings

Britain’s Master Plan Regarding Europe

What can be done to derail a United States of Europe, or at least to neuter it?

Credit: simbos Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • A United States of Europe will be a perpetual threat to Britain, as statesmen from William Pitt to Winston Churchill instinctively recognized.
  • In practice, a United States of Europe will generally be motivated at least partly by jealousy of Britain.
  • It is likely that Britain will have worked itself fully free of the EU well before 2025, Schulz’s target date for his United States of Europe.
  • Britain’s principal objective, once it has escaped from the clutches of the EU, should be to detach other countries from it.

Germany’s SPD leader Martin Schulz wants a “United States of Europe” (“USE”; as opposed to the United States of America, USA) by 2025.

While his potential coalition partner Angela Merkel quickly disowned this idea, for Britain it is probably fortunate that it slipped out. Preventing Europe from uniting has been a central feature of British foreign policy for several centuries.

A United States of Europe will be a perpetual threat to Britain, as statesmen from William III through William Pitt to Winston Churchill instinctively recognized.

It was thus historically a highly eccentric decision for Harold Macmillan in 1961 to apply for Britain to join the European Common Market, which became the European Union.

The free trading zone that Macmillan assured his fellow countrymen he was attempting to join was perfectly in accord with Britain’s historic foreign policy. Indeed, extending free trade on a unilateral basis had been a leading objective of the 19th Century Whigs whom Macmillan revered.

Fast forward

Today, as Britain struggles desperately to free itself from the EU’s stickily ensnaring regulations, while having ever more unjustifiable costs piled upon it, it is clear that we seeking to end a 50-year detour.

Without it, Britain could have concentrated on reaching regulation-light free trade agreements with the Anglosphere.

With India (once India ended its own flirtation with dozy socialism), the former Commonwealth – which could have usefully received more attention during the period – as well as Eastern Europe and the emerging markets in Asia and Latin America. That vision of a truly global Britain is what the country must aim for today.

In theory, a United States of Europe need not be a threat to Britain, any more than is the United States of America. While a Continental super-state like the U.S., it will have less of a defense capability than the U.S. or China.

It will also have a very undynamic economy, with entrepreneurs shackled by environmental and other regulations as well as an arrogant and corrupt central bureaucracy that is entirely removed from democratic control.

This brave new Europe which Mr. Schulz envisions will be no more amenable to popular wishes than would have been a Europe dominated by Kaiser Wilhelm. However, it will lack Wilhelmine Europe’s baroquely beautiful architecture, economic dynamism and overpoweringly splendid ruling moustache.

In practice, a United States of Europe will generally be motivated at least partly by jealousy of Britain. Europeans will resent Britain’s relative freedom from regulation, its democratic accountability and its relative economic success.

How to break the EU?

Fortunately, a solution exists. A completely united Europe is an existential threat to Britain, but a Europe where some parts have broken away from the centralizing bureaucracy, is much less of a threat.

How so? Because the existence of even modest counterweights to the centralized behemoth stalls it.

Thus, Britain’s principal objective, once it has escaped from the clutches of the EU, should be to detach other countries from it, whether in a looser free-trade grouping or simply in a loose association of like-minded countries.

Britain will not be able to start on this work immediately. It will need several years to wind its way out of the remaining restrictions the EU has placed on it, and to make appropriate arrangements with its main potential trading partners, notably the United States, India, Japan and the remaining Anglosphere.

Nevertheless, if we are lucky, it is likely that Britain will have worked itself fully free of the EU well before 2025, Schulz’s target date for his United States of Europe.

Potential partners

Once this has happened, Britain will be an attractive partner for those EU states wishing to choose freedom over a bureaucratic super-state. Fortunately, there are a number of potential such partners:

• Poland is already threatening to leave the EU because it doesn’t want Middle Eastern migrants imposed on it.

• Hungary, like Poland, has a problem with EU immigration policies. It is certainly detachable from the EU, but may not be a comfortable partner with Britain unless Nigel Farage has been elected prime minister.

• Czech Republic and Slovakia are natural allies of Poland and Hungary (and even when as in Slovakia) they are controlled by the left, it is a nationalist left. They would fit well into a British-organized free trade area.

• Austria has been a natural British ally for centuries. The country is increasingly unhappy with Brussels, even though the new Kurtz government says, for now, that it wants to stay in the EU.

• Slovenia and Croatia are increasingly skeptical of the EU (Croatia now opposes Euro adoption with a 2 to 1 margin) and might leave if an attractive alternative was presented to them.

The EU loyalists

Other countries are less likely to leave the EU. Benelux and France are so bound up in the EU structure that they will not want to leave.

Economic basket cases, such as Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, receive such large subsidies from the EU that they will not want to leave either.

The Baltic States probably still regard the EU as the best protection against Russian re-annexation. As for Scandinavia, its countries will leave the EU (and possibly form a trading relationship with Britain) only if they elect nationalist governments rather than, as for most of the last century, politically correct socialist ones.

Spain, Portugal and Italy are philosophically a long way from Britain, although Portugal has historic attachments that might have an effect.

Freeing other EU countries

Even after it has survived the inevitably difficult transition, it will not be easy for Britain to dislodge more than a few countries from the emerging super-state. But it will not need to; the continuing existence of a freer, richer group of countries within Europe and outside the USE will prevent any tendency the USE may have to assert continental domination.

And if the worst comes to the worst, there’s always Vladimir Putin’s Russia to lend a hand. But he would be an unpleasant ally.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the author’s “True Blue Will Never Stain” blog.

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About Martin Hutchinson

Martin Hutchinson is the co-author of Alchemists of Loss: How modern finance and government intervention crashed the financial system (Wiley, 2010). [New York, United States]

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